My debut novel, A Wicked Thing, was released on Tuesday. And so I wanted to take a moment to talk about it.
A Wicked Thing is an after-the-end retelling of Sleeping Beauty, beginning at the moment when Aurora wakes up. Everyone she knew is dead, the entire world has changed while she slept, and her desperate kingdom has woven legends about how her goodness and her "true love's kiss" will save them once she awakens. Before she has a moment to think, she's made into a pawn of the current ruling family, all set to marry the hapless prince who awoke her, and she has to figure out who she can trust, what she must do, and what exactly what has happened while she slept.
It probably won't surprise people that my protagonist Aurora is more of a "Sansa Stark" heroine than an Arya. A character who I think is strong and worthwhile and capable, but who doesn't show it by fighting, and who takes time to find her feet. The novel is fairly introspective, exploring how Aurora can grow from a confused and naive princess into the woman she has the potential to be, and how she can survive the weight of expectations, of perfectionism, of not being allowed to be "selfish" in a life dictated by others.
It also ended up as quite an interrogation of fairy tale tropes. The main one, obviously, is the concept of "true love's kiss," that story of a fated love between complete strangers. I started A Wicked Thing when Twilight was still the hottest thing in Young Adult fiction, and there was a whole slew of stories about love-at-first-sight that mattered beyond all things, and fated love where personal choice was never even a question. It frustrated me that a lot of books took such a fatalistic approach to YA romance, with the idea that once you like someone, you MUST be with them, no matter how bad things get or how much of a creepy stalker they become. And A Wicked Thing isn't about stalker vampires, but it is about a girl who is told, by "fate," that she has met her true love, and has to deal with the fact that she might not actually agree. How would the pressure of being told she must love a particular person affect her feelings? And would this idea of a fated love really be treated as something good, or would it be used by others for their own gain?
Some people have described A Wicked Thing as a "love triangle" book, or expected one to develop in the future, but from my perspective, that's really not true. There are a few potential guys for Aurora -- two princes and a commoner -- and she considers each of them at some point in the novel. But they're not competing for her affection. In the end, they're competing for her as an asset, and although there is a little bit of romance, it's definitely not the central focus.
In fact, the most important relationship from my perspective is the one between Aurora and Queen Iris, Aurora's half-captor half-protector who is preparing Aurora for marriage to her son. Iris at first certainly seems like a horrible, controlling person, but she's just as trapped as Aurora is, in her own way, and has learned what she believes is the best way to survive. She's determined that Aurora will learn the same skills, and the dynamic between the two characters was definitely the most interesting to write. I was also particularly interested by the relationship between Aurora and the witch who cursed her -- why would the witch curse her? What did she hope to achieve, and how does Aurora feel about it? -- but that's something I really don't want to spoil.
Ultimately, A Wicked Thing is the story of a girl learning how to become a heroine in a world where she seems to have no options or chances to make decisions for herself.
I really hope that people enjoy it.